Papilledema is swelling of the optic disc in the eye because of increased intracranial pressure. There are no early symptoms, although it can affect your vision for a couple of seconds. Papilledema requires an immediate analysis for its cause. Identification for its cause is done by ophthalmoscopy with further tests, usually, brain imaging and sometimes subsequent lumbar puncture, to ascertain the cause. Treatment is aimed at the underlying condition.

Optic disc swelling could be caused by a number of conditions including papilloedema. The expression papilloedema refers especially to optic disc swelling generated by elevated intracranial pressure (ICP). Patients with papilloedema generally present with symptoms or signs of elevated ICP.

Not all of the optic disc swelling is papilloedema. A careful evaluation and diagnosis are required to differentiate papilloedema from different causes of optic disc swelling including central retinal artery or vein occlusion, congenital abnormalities and optic neuritis.

Note: Optic disc swelling results from triggers that don’t involve increased intracranial pressure (eg, malignant hypertension, and thrombosis of the central retinal vein) is not considered papilledema.

What excatly is Optic Swelling?

The fluid bathing your brain and spinal cord is known as cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. Optic nerve swelling may happen when CSF builds up wherever your optic nerve and the central retinal vein traveling between your brain and your eye nerve. This area is popularly known as the subarachnoid space. When pressure pushes on the nerve and vein, blood and fluid cannot render the eye at a normal speed, causing papilledema.

At times, brain pressure builds up for no apparent reason. This is referred to as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, which will be more likely to occur if you are obese.

Common Symptoms

In papilledema, eyesight is generally not affected initially, however, seconds-long graying out of eyesight, flickering, or blurry or double vision may occur. Patients may have symptoms of increased intracranial pressure, such as pain or nausea and vomiting. Pain is absent.

Slight changes in the vision are some common and early symptoms of papilledema. However, such problems are barely noticeable at first, but with time, the condition may worsen and blurring of eyes, frequent flashes, double vision, and lasting temporary vision loss may add up. Moreover, if the pressure on the brain continues, these changes may last for minutes or longer. In extreme cases, they may become permanent.

The swelling in the brain causes papilledema, some major symptoms that may differ this condition from other eye disorders are as follows:

  • Throwing up

  • Feeling nauseous

  • Tinnitus, hearing ringing or other sort of noises in ears

  • Having abnormal headaches

At the early phases of papilledema, visual acuity and pupillary response to light are generally normal and eventually become strange just after the problem is well improved. Visual field testing can detect an enlarged blind spot. Afterward, visual field testing may show flaws average of nerve fiber bundle defects and lack of peripheral vision.

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